Covid-19 news: Coronavirus restrictions to ease slightly in England

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Boris Johnson filming his address to the nation from Downing Street.

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Latest coronavirus news as of 5 pm on 11 May

People in England can return to work if they can’t work from home

Restrictions to curb the spread of coronavirus are being eased slightly in England this week, but many have criticised the government for creating confusion with a new slogan telling people to “stay alert”, which replaces previous advice to “stay at home.” In a video message broadcast on Sunday evening, prime minister Boris Johnson announced the following changes to the government’s policy in England, which are listed in full online and will come into effect from Wednesday 13 May:

  • Employees can return to work if they can’t work from home and if their work place is open, but they should try to avoid using public transport to get there. This applies to essential shops, but excludes restaurants, pubs, and gyms.
  • Face coverings are advised in places like shops or on public transport, but will not be made compulsory.
  • People will be able to meet with one person from a household other than their own, but only if they meet in a public place and stay at least two metres apart.

These new policies mean that social distancing rules in England are now different from the advice given to UK citizens in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon said people should continue to “stay at home”, and Northern Ireland’s first minister Arlene Foster also rejected the new slogan.

Some London Underground platforms were packed with passengers this morning following last night’s announcement.

Other coronavirus developments

Two people who work in close proximity to US president Donald Trump and vice president Mike Pence have tested positive for coronavirus, and several senior staff including government health adviser Anthony Fauci are now self-isolating for two weeks. The White House said that vice president Pence will not alter his routine or self-quarantine. 

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Doctors in the US have reported a wide range of possible effects of covid-19 on the body, including damage to the kidneys, heart and brain.

The death toll in the US could reach 137,000 by early August according to researchers at the University of Washington’s Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation. Many states are continuing to ease restrictions despite failing to meet White House criteria for reopening businesses.

The covid-19 pandemic is causing a decline in routine childhood vaccination in the US, according to a report from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Parents’ concerns about potentially exposing their children to covid-19 may be a contributing factor.

Wuhan, China, has detected its first new cases of coronavirus since its lockdown lifted in early April. Five cases were confirmed in a single residential community on 10 May.

Coronavirus restrictions are gradually being eased in a growing number of European countries. People in France are now allowed to walk outside without a permit and in some parts of Spain people can now meet in bars and restaurants with outdoor spaces.

In New Zealand restrictions will be further eased this week with domestic travel resuming and restaurants, shops, gyms and playgrounds reopening. The country is very close to wiping out covid-19 entirely.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 283,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 4.1 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Drones to enforce social distancing: In India, police are using AI-equipped drones developed by US start-up Skylark to monitor evening curfews and the distance between people who are outside during the day.

Easing coronavirus lockdowns in Africa: After many African countries took quick action to stop the coronavirus spreading, attention is now turning to what will happen as several nations begin easing lockdown restrictions in one of the world’s most vulnerable regions.

New Zealand close to wiping out coronavirus: New Zealand is tantalisingly close to wiping out covid-19, but does that mean that life there will be able to go back to normal? 

Essential information about coronavirus

What is covid-19?

What are the worst symptoms and how deadly is covid-19?

You could be spreading the coronavirus without realising you’ve got it

What does evidence say about schools reopening?

How and when will the coronavirus lockdowns end?

What to read, watch and listen to about coronavirus

Can You Save The World? is a coronavirus social distancing game, where the player travels through a city and gains points for saving lives by practising social distancing correctly and collecting masks.

What coronavirus looks like in every country on earth is a 28 minute film from Channel 4 News showing what daily life looks like in every country from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

Coronavirus explained on Netflix is a short documentary series examining the on-going coronavirus pandemic, the efforts to fight it and ways to manage its mental health toll.

The science of a pandemic: As the death toll from covid-19 rises, discover how researchers around the world are racing to understand the virus and prevent future outbreaks in our free online panel discussion.

A day in the life of coronavirus Britain is an uplifting Channel 4 documentary shot over 24 hours which shows how the citizens of Britain are coping under lockdown.

New Scientist Weekly features updates and analysis on the latest developments in the covid-19 pandemic. Our podcast sees expert journalists from the magazine discuss the biggest science stories to hit the headlines each week – from technology and space, to health and the environment.

The Rules of Contagion is about the new science of contagion and the surprising ways it shapes our lives and behaviour. The author, Adam Kucharski, is an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and in the book he examines how things spread and why they stop.

Coronavirus trajectory tracker explained, a video by John Burn-Murdoch for the Financial Times, uses data-visualisation to explain the daily graphs that show how coronavirus cases and deaths are growing around the world.

Contagion: The BBC Four Pandemic is a sober documentary about the progression of a hypothetical pandemic which the BBC simulated in 2017. Fronted by science journalist and TV presenter Hannah Fry, and made with the support of some of the country’s best epidemiologists and mathematical modelers, it’s very relevant to today’s covid-19 pandemic.

Previous updates

nurse outside hospital

A nurse wears a protective face mask outside the Royal London Hospital on 18 April 2020.

DANIEL LEAL-OLIVAS/AFP via Getty Images

7 May

Black people in England and Wales almost twice as likely to die from covid-19

Black people in England and Wales are 90 per cent more likely to die with coronavirus than white people, according to a study by the Office for National Statistics (ONS) which combined census and covid-19 deaths data.

The study showed that even after accounting for age, levels of deprivation in different areas and how healthy people said they were at the time of the 2011 census, black people are still more likely to die of covid-19. People from Indian, Bangladeshi and Pakistani communities were found to have between a 30 and 80 per cent higher risk than white people. 

Other coronavirus developments

US president Donald Trump has said the coronavirus pandemic is an “attack” on the US worse than Pearl Harbor or 9/11 and blamed China for not doing more to stop it. Trump and his secretary of state Mike Pompeo both recently claimed that the virus came from a laboratory in Wuhan. Anthony Fauci, director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said this week that the virus was not manufactured, and that it “evolved in nature and then jumped species.” The official daily death toll in the US is predicted to rise to more than 3,000 by 1 June.

Nearly 3.2 million US citizens filed for unemployment over the last week, bringing the total to 33 million since the country’s covid-19 shutdowns started in mid-March.

The Bank of England said that the UK economy could shrink by 14 per cent this year, the country’s sharpest ever recession.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson said the government will move cautiously in its consideration of easing coronavirus restrictions. Johnson will outline the government’s plans for the next three weeks at 7PM BST on Sunday, but any changes are expected to be relatively minor.

400,000 personal protective equipment gowns flown into the UK from Turkey to meet NHS demand have failed to meet safety standards and will be returned.

The first of more than 60 flights to repatriate almost 15,000 Indian citizens from 12 different countries is expected to take off today. Citizens wishing to return will need to pay for their own tickets and will only be able to board if they aren’t showing covid-19 symptoms.

International Airlines Group, which owns British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus, has said there will be no “meaningful return to service” until July. Passenger demand is not expected to recover to 2019 levels until at least 2023.

London’s Notting Hill Carnival, one of the UK’s largest annual events, has been cancelled for the first time since it began 54 years ago.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 264,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 3.7 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

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Prime minister Boris Johnson during Prime Minister’s Questions in the House of Commons, London on 6 May.

6 May

UK coronavirus official death toll passes 30,000 – the second highest in the world

The UK now has the highest recorded death toll from covid-19 in Europe and the second highest in the world, according to the latest data. Total deaths in the UK have reached 30,076, compared to 29,684 in Italy, previously the highest in Europe. The number of deaths in care homes in the UK continue to rise, and today prime minister Boris Johnson said he “bitterly regrets” the situation there. He said a “huge effort” had been made to provide more personal protective equipment and he set a new target of 200,000 daily coronavirus tests by the end of May.

Other coronavirus developments

US president Donald Trump said the country’s coronavirus task force will keep working “indefinitely.” Yesterday he suggested that the group, led by vice president Mike Pence, would be phased out over the next few weeks. A statistical model created by the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation at the University of Washington estimated deaths in the US could double to 134,000 by 4 August if states continue to relax social distancing measures.

German chancellor Angela Merkel announced further easing of coronavirus restrictions today. Larger shops will now be allowed to reopen as long as they comply with strict hygiene rules, and people from two different households can now meet. Germany is now at a point “where we can say that we have reached the goal of slowing down the spread of the virus,” said Merkel.

Airbnb has seen a spike in bookings as people in Europe start planning holidays. If the outbreak remains under control, people in Germany may be able to take holidays abroad soon, according to the country’s federal tourism commissioner Thomas Bareiss. Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte recently said Italians would be able to go on holiday this summer.

High school students have been allowed back to school in Wuhan, China for the first time since schools closed there in January. More than 57,000 students were allowed to sit university entrance exams but had to abide by social distancing rules, wear face masks and arrive at staggered times. Junior and middle school students have not yet returned. No new deaths from coronavirus have been reported in China since 27 April.

Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist advising the government whose research influenced changes to the UK’s coronavirus policy, has resigned from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) committee after he broke social distancing rules.

Unemployment among under-25s in the UK could reach 1 million this year, up 640,000 people on last year, according to a report from the Resolution Foundation think tank.

Heathrow airport is to start checking the temperature of passengers in immigration and other areas of the airport, and is urging the UK government to come up with a list of common standards for airports to deal with coronavirus. The airport’s CEO John Holland-Kaye said, “If you want to get the UK economy started again, you have to get the aviation sector started again.” Heathrow said it expected passenger numbers in April to fall as much as 97 per cent compared to the same month last year.

More than two-thirds of people surveyed across 20 countries in Africa, including Egypt, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Kenya and South Africa, say they would run out of food and water if they had to stay at home for 14 days, research by the Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention has revealed.

The Australian government has admitted that their Covidsafe contact tracing app may not be recording all the data required on some iPhones. 

Coronavirus numbers

New Scientist Default Image

The worldwide death toll has passed 258,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 3.6 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

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Misleading science: Amid the global coronavirus outbreak, a second epidemic of preliminary, unverified and misinterpreted research has broken out. Can it be fixed?

Essential information about coronavirus

What is covid-19?

What are the worst symptoms and how deadly is covid-19?

You could be spreading the coronavirus without realising you’ve got it

What does evidence say about schools reopening?

How and when will the coronavirus lockdowns end?

What to read, watch and listen to about coronavirus

What coronavirus looks like in every country on earth is a 28 minute film from Channel 4 News showing what daily life looks like in every country from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe.

Coronavirus explained on Netflix is a short documentary series examining the on-going coronavirus pandemic, the efforts to fight it and ways to manage its mental health toll.

The science of a pandemic: As the death toll from covid-19 rises, discover how researchers around the world are racing to understand the virus and prevent future outbreaks in our free online panel discussion.

A day in the life of coronavirus Britain is an uplifting Channel 4 documentary shot over 24 hours which shows how the citizens of Britain are coping under lockdown.

New Scientist Weekly features updates and analysis on the latest developments in the covid-19 pandemic. Our podcast sees expert journalists from the magazine discuss the biggest science stories to hit the headlines each week – from technology and space, to health and the environment.

The Rules of Contagion is about the new science of contagion and the surprising ways it shapes our lives and behaviour. The author, Adam Kucharski, is an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and in the book he examines how things spread and why they stop.

Coronavirus trajectory tracker explained, a video by John Burn-Murdoch for the Financial Times, uses data-visualisation to explain the daily graphs that show how coronavirus cases and deaths are growing around the world.

Contagion: The BBC Four Pandemic is a sober documentary about the progression of a hypothetical pandemic which the BBC simulated in 2017. Fronted by science journalist and TV presenter Hannah Fry, and made with the support of some of the country’s best epidemiologists and mathematical modelers, it’s very relevant to today’s covid-19 pandemic.

Previous updates

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The golden statues of the Trocadero esplanade, in front of the Eiffel Tower, Paris, are covered with protective face masks.

CHRISTOPHE PETIT TESSON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

5 May

Europe’s first known coronavirus case may have been in December

A man who was treated at a hospital in France for suspected pneumonia may have had covid-19 as early as 27 December, according to a retest of old samples. France reported its first cases of coronavirus on 24 January, and these were among the first that were detected in Europe. World Health Organization (WHO) spokesperson Christian Lindmeier has now urged countries to check their records for similar cases in order to provide a clearer picture of how and when outbreaks began. The testing result may not be conclusive however – it could possibly be a false positive.

Other coronavirus developments

Anthony Fauci, a lead member of the Trump administration’s coronavirus task force, has warned that any easing of restrictions in the US could lead to a “dire” increase in the country’s covid-19 death toll. “How many deaths and how much suffering are you willing to accept to get back to what you want to be some form of normality, sooner rather than later?” he said.

India eased some of its coronavirus lockdown restrictions yesterday, despite an increase in new confirmed cases. The country’s strict five week lockdown has particularly affected the country’s 40 million migrant workers, preventing many from working in cities or from travelling home. 

The UK’s NHS coronavirus contact tracing app is being trialled on the Isle of Wight. If successful, the app could be made available across the UK within weeks, although concerns have been raised over privacy and the ability of the app to detect covid-19 outbreaks.

The popular COVID symptom tracker app developed by King’s College London and a team of international researchers predicted two spikes in confirmed coronavirus cases in southern Wales five or more days in advance. Nearly 3 million users regularly report their health using the app every day. 

The UK government’s chief scientific adviser Patrick Vallance has said that face masks could be beneficial in some settings. The UK government does not currently recommend face masks for the general public, in accordance with WHO guidance, but the Scottish government has suggested that people cover their faces in shops and public transport. More than 50 countries including Austria and Germany have made cloth face masks mandatory for the general public in some scenarios including visiting shops or using public transport.

Coronavirus numbers

The worldwide death toll has passed 252,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 3.6 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

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Chief Medical Officer Professor Chris Whitty (left) and Chief Scientific Officer, Sir Patrick Vallance arrive at 10 Downing Street ahead of the daily COVID-19 briefing on 9 April 2020 in London, England. Both are key members of the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE).

Peter Summers/Getty Images

4 May

Scientists advising UK government coronavirus response revealed

The names of scientists advising the UK government on the covid-19 pandemic were revealed today, including 50 of the 52 scientists who sit on the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) committee. The government had previously been criticised for a lack of transparency about who has been providing the scientific advice that has been informing it’s response to the pandemic.

Of the 50 named scientists, 38 have expertise in virology, infectious diseases, epidemiology, medicine, public health or statistics, according to New Scientist analysis. Five people with expertise in psychology or behavioural science have also been involved.

Over the weekend, David King, a former scientific adviser to the UK government, announced that he has convened an independent panel of experts, prompted by concerns over a lack of transparency. The panel, which is calling itself the Independent SAGE, held its first meeting live on YouTube today.

Other coronavirus developments

In Italy, 4.4 million people returned to work today as the country eased restrictions after a two month lockdown which began on 9 March. Italy was the first country in Europe to have a serious covid-19 outbreak and there have been at least 28,000 deaths due to coronavirus there. Yesterday there were 174 deaths, the lowest daily count since 10 March, the day after the lockdown went into effect.

Researchers in Germany estimate that only one in 10 of the country’s coronavirus cases have been diagnosed. 1.8 million people in Germany may have contracted the virus to date, about 10 times the official number, according to their study.

The European Commission has launched a global coronavirus research fund focused on developing a vaccine and plans to host a virtual fundraising event to encourage donations from philanthropists and other governments. It aims to raise more than £6.6 billion (€7.5 billion) to make up for a funding shortfall for the World Health Organization and other organisations that are fighting the pandemic.

The number of people reporting deep levels of concern and stress in a regular wellbeing survey has more than doubled since late 2019, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics. Between 20 and 30 March this year, more than 20 per cent of people reported low levels of happiness. People’s main concerns were personal wellbeing, their jobs and the impact of the covid-19 pandemic on their finances. 

A draft of the UK government’s plan to ease social distancing restrictions and allow more people back to work has been published by Buzzfeed, which includes staggered working hours and relaxing the requirement to stay more than 2 metres away from other people.

London’s NHS Nightingale hospital is expected to be placed on standby. The converted ExCeL conference centre in east London has the capacity to treat up to 4000 people, but a maximum of only 100 people have been treated there at one time so far. A spokesperson for London’s NHS Nightingale said the fact that it was never close to full capacity was a “mark of success”. It’s one of ten temporary hospitals built to deal with the covid-19 pandemic.

Coronavirus numbers

The worldwide death toll has passed 248,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 3.5 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Contact tracing app: The UK government will begin trials of its coronavirus contact tracing app this week, but officials today declined to say how much impact it would actually have on slowing the spread of covid-19. 

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Health Secretary Matt Hancock arrives at 10 Downing Street on 1 May 2020

Alberto Pezzali/AP/Shutterstock

1 May

UK government hits 100,000 daily tests target by including unanalysed tests

UK health secretary Matt Hancock said that the government carried out 122,347 coronavirus tests yesterday, hitting his target of performing 100,000 daily coronavirus tests by the end of April. However, according to Health Service Journal, the government changed the count to include tests that haven’t yet been taken or analysed. As many as 52,000 of the tests which the government said happened on 30 April were merely sent out by post.

According to the government’s own numbers, the actual number of people who were tested yesterday was 73,191. The government states that the 122,347 figure includes tests processed through government laboratories, plus tests sent to satellite labs or posted to individuals.

Other coronavirus developments

The coronavirus pandemic is likely to last as long as two years, according to researchers at the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy in Minnesota. They suggest the fact that people without symptoms can spread the virus means the pandemic might not be under control until about two-thirds of the world’s population is immune to the virus. It still isn’t clear how long any immunity to the coronavirus might last, however. 

More than 1 million people with confirmed cases of covid-19 have recovered, according to data collated by Johns Hopkins University. This figure doesn’t include people who weren’t tested and then recovered.

The UN has warned that millions of children are at risk of missing essential vaccines because the pandemic has delayed shipments by air. “Unicef is calling for support to unlock a massive backlog in vaccine shipments,” said Unicef spokesperson Marixie Mercado.

The covid-19 death rate for people from black African backgrounds is 3.5 times higher than for white people in England and Wales, according to the Institute for Fiscal Studies. Emerging data suggests the UK epidemic is hitting ethnic minorities harder.

The number of covid-19 deaths per capita are twice as high in the poorest areas of England and Wales compared to the least deprived areas, according to the UK’s Office for National Statistics. The deprived areas had 55.1 deaths per 100,000 people, compared with 25.3 in affluent areas.

The US director of national intelligence has confirmed that the coronavirus wasn’t man-made or engineered, contradicting president Donald Trump who repeated his claim to have seen evidence that that coronavirus came from a Chinese laboratory.

Japanese prime minister Shinzo Abe said he is considering extending the country’s state of emergency for another month. The current emergency will expire on 6 May. Abe said he will rely on expert advice.

Coronavirus numbers

The worldwide death toll has passed 233,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 3.2 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Coronavirus dreams: If you feel you’ve been dreaming a lot more recently, the coronavirus crisis and lockdown measures could be to blame. Changes in sleep patterns may mean that many of us are dreaming more or remembering more of the dreams that we have, while the looming threat of the virus may have affected the nature of the dreams themselves.

Australia: Lockdown measures designed to stop the spread of the coronavirus in Australia seem to also be suppressing the country’s flu season. 

freeway in los angeles

An empty 110 freeway looking south towards downtown Los Angeles

Robert Gauthier / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images

30 April

Global CO2 emissions could fall 8 per cent in 2020 due to drop in energy demand

The economic effects of the pandemic could cause a record 8 per cent annual decline in global carbon emissions, according to a report from the International Energy Agency (IEA). “This is a historic shock to the entire energy world. Amid today’s unparalleled health and economic crises, the plunge in demand for nearly all major fuels is staggering,” said IEA director Fatih Birol. “It is still too early to determine the longer-term impacts, but the energy industry that emerges from this crisis will be significantly different from the one that came before.”

In Europe, a report out today estimates that there were 11,000 fewer deaths due to air pollution in the 30 days ending 24 April.

Other coronavirus developments

South Korea reported no new confirmed coronavirus cases today for the first time since February, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Hong Kong reported no new confirmed coronavirus cases for the fifth day running.

More than 30 million US citizens have claimed unemployment benefits in the last six weeks. State agencies are so overwhelmed with requests that many millions more may have been unable to claim.

The eurozone economy shrank at the fastest pace on record in the first quarter of 2020, as countries around the world introduced restrictions to combat coronavirus. A preliminary estimate of GDP between January and March suggests a contraction of 3.8 per cent, worse than during the 2008 financial crisis.

The UK government said it carried out 81,000 coronavirus tests in the last 24 hours, missing its target of carrying out 100,000 daily coronavirus tests by the end of April.

Pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca has agreed to help manufacture and distribute the experimental coronavirus vaccine currently being developed by researchers at the University of Oxford in the UK if it is found to be effective. 

66,000 tonnes of plastic waste from single-use masks could be produced in the UK, unless there is a switch towards reusable masks, according to a report from researchers at University College London, UK.

Climate activist Greta Thunberg has donated £80,000 ($100,000) to the United Nations Children’s Fund to help protect children from the consequences of the pandemic. Thunberg’s foundation was awarded the money by the Danish NGO Human Act for her global activism.

Coronavirus numbers

New Scientist Default Image

The worldwide death toll has passed 228,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 3.2 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

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Covid-19 and air pollution: Are you more likely to die of covid-19 if you live in a polluted area?

UK contact tracers: The UK government has refused to say how many covid-19 contact tracers it has employed, with less than three weeks to go until its target of recruiting 18,000 of them by mid-May.

Coronaviruses from history: Four coronaviruses cause around a quarter of all common colds, but each was probably deadly when it first made the leap to humans.

Consumerism and pandemics: Hyperconsumption adds to environmental destruction, bringing people into contact with animal viruses that can spark pandemics. We have to avoid the temptation to rely on it to get us out, writes Graham Lawton. 

Fruit vendor in Amritsar India

A fruit vendor waits for customers during the nation-wide lockdown in Amritsar, India

RAMINDER PAL SINGH/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

29 April

Nearly half the global workforce could lose their livelihoods due to the pandemic

Nearly half the global workforce – more than 1.6 billion people – could lose their livelihoods due to coronavirus restrictions and lockdowns, according to a UN International Labour Organization report. These include many informal workers, such as domestic workers, agricultural workers and street vendors, who may not have worker benefits or social protection.

“For millions of workers, no income means no food, no security and no future,” said the organisation’s director general Guy Ryder. “As the pandemic and the jobs crisis evolve, the need to protect the most vulnerable becomes even more urgent,” he said.

Other coronavirus developments

A new coronavirus antibody test has been certified as compliant with European Union safety standards. The company which developed the antibody test, Abbott, claims it is highly sensitive when used 14 days after a person first developed symptoms. It is still not clear whether people with antibodies are protected from reinfection and how long such protection might last.

US GDP fell 4.8 per cent in the first quarter of 2020, the largest quarterly fall since the 2008 financial crisis and exceeding economists’ forecasts of a 4 per cent decline. 

US president Donald Trump signed an executive order yesterday to compel meat-processing plants to stay open during the pandemic, despite hundreds of workers falling ill. Unions and worker advocates argue that closures are necessary to limit the spread of coronavirus.

The US now has more than 1 million confirmed coronavirus cases, making up about a third of confirmed cases worldwide. More than 58,000 people have died from covid-19 in the US, more than the number of US citizens killed during the Vietnam war.

Millions of women will be unable to access contraceptives and face unwanted pregnancies, gender-based violence and other harmful practices over the next few months due to the pandemic, according to new projections from the United Nations sexual and reproductive health agency.

The UK has expanded the list of people eligible for coronavirus testing to include care home residents and staff. People over 65 and those who have to leave home for work will also be eligible for testing if they develop covid-19 symptoms. The UK government says it is still aiming to hit its target of 100,000 daily coronavirus tests by tomorrow. About 43,000 people were tested in the 24 hours up to 09.00 on 28 April.

Germany has extended its ban on international travel until 14 June. It was originally due to end on 3 May.

Coronavirus numbers

New Scientist Default Image

The worldwide death toll has passed 218,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 3.1 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

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How many people have really died?: Looking at how many more people are dying than usual gives an idea of the coronavirus pandemic’s true effect – and suggests a far higher death toll.

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A family plays in the street in Barcelona. Spain’s children have been allowed out to run, play or go for a walk this week after six weeks of being made to stay indoors.

JOSEP LAGO/AFP via Getty Images

28 April

Worldwide confirmed cases pass 3 million

There have been more than 3 million confirmed coronavirus cases worldwide and more than 211,000 deaths, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University

Almost a third of the confirmed cases are in the US, which remains the worst affected country with more than 56,000 deaths. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) modelling indicates that deaths are likely to continue to rise in the US in coming weeks but could be substantially slowed by increased social distancing. Several states including Georgia, Texas, Michigan, Hawaii and Alaska have already begun to ease social distancing restrictions.

Other coronavirus developments

A third of all coronavirus deaths in England and Wales are happening in care homes, according to figures from the UK’s Office for National Statistics for the week ending 17 April. The daily death toll in hospitals has been falling since 8 April.
Scotland’s first minister Nicola Sturgeon has announced that all people aged over 70 who are admitted to hospital will now be tested for covid-19. Sturgeon also said that face masks should be worn while shopping or using public transport.

France will only ease coronavirus restrictions on 11 May if the number of new confirmed coronavirus cases falls to less than 3000 per day, French prime minister Edouard Phillippe told parliament today. There were 3743 new confirmed cases in France today, although the average number of daily confirmed cases over the past 2 weeks is 2162.

The postponed Tokyo Olympics will be cancelled if they cannot take place in 2021 because it will be too “difficult to hold the games unless the pandemic is over in the rest of the world”, according to Tokyo 2020 president Yoshiro Mori. The games are currently scheduled to run from 23 July to 8 August next year.

Germany has agreed a £7.8 billion (9 billion) rescue package to help the airline Lufthansa, which, like many other airlines, has been affected by pandemic travel restrictions.

Coronavirus numbers

New Scientist Default Image

The worldwide death toll has passed 211,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 3 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Long-term mental health: Lessons from natural disasters and the military can help guide our responses to help people’s long-term mental health during the covid-19 pandemic.

UK contact tracing target: The UK government has set a new target of recruiting an army of 18,000 coronavirus contact tracers by the middle of May, to be in place for the launch of the NHS contact tracing app.

workers on a building site in Wuhan

Construction workers on the site of the Wuhan Greenland Center on 24 April 2020.

STR/AFP via Getty Images

27 April

All covid-19 patients discharged from Wuhan hospitals

Wuhan, where the coronavirus pandemic began, has discharged the outbreak’s last covid-19 patient. The whole of China reported fewer than 12 new coronavirus cases on Saturday. Social distancing restrictions are still in place, but are being gradually reduced, with almost 50,000 high school students returning to class in Beijing today. 

Since the outbreak began, China has reported more than 83,000 cases and more than 4,600 deaths, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Other coronavirus developments

An analysis by the Financial Times suggests the global death toll for covid-19 may be almost 60 per cent higher than official counts according to excess death statistics from 14 countries.

The World Health Organization (WHO) says “immunity passports”, which would allow people who have been been infected with coronavirus to move around after they recover, are a bad idea. “There is currently no evidence that people who have recovered from covid-19 and have antibodies are protected from a second infection,” according to a WHO statement.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation will focus “almost entirely” on the coronavirus pandemic in the near future. “This has the foundation’s total attention,” Bill Gates told the FT. The foundation, which has a $40 billion endowment, has already committed $250 million to fighting the pandemic.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson returned to work today, more than three weeks after testing positive for covid-19. He said it is still too risky for the country to relax restrictions.

Doctors in the UK have been alerted to an inflammatory syndrome appearing in children that may be related to covid-19 after a rise in cases in the last few weeks.

Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte has said that people will be able to visit their families and factories will be allowed to reopen from 4 May, in a step towards ending the lockdown that has been in place there since early March.

People in Germany are now required to wear cloth face masks on public transport and, in most regions, within shops. German authorities across the country are beginning to ease restrictions by re-opening certain shops and schools.

New Zealand says it has stopped community transmission of the coronavirus. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said the virus was “currently” eliminated, with new confirmed cases in single figures for several days and only one new confirmed case reported on Sunday.

More than 1 million Australians downloaded a coronavirus contact tracing smartphone app called COVIDSafe within hours of its release by the government.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 207,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 2.9 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Coronavirus genetic risk: Half a million people who have volunteered their genetic information for scientific research will not be informed if researchers discover that they are genetically vulnerable to the coronavirus.

UK’s coronavirus science advisors to be revealed: A list of people who have been giving scientific advice to the UK government during the coronavirus crisis is set to be published imminently, following concerns over a lack of transparency.

Italian prime minister at his desk on video call

Italian Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte attends an EU summit held via video conference to discuss the covid-19 plan.

Filippo Attili/DPA/PA Images

Latest coronavirus news as of 5 pm on 24 April

World leaders launch covid-19 plan without US involvement

Global leaders are launching an initiative with the World Health Organization (WHO) to accelerate the development of coronavirus drugs, tests and vaccines and ensure equal access to all countries, but the US is not involved. European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen, French president Emmanuel Macron and German chancellor Angela Merkel were among leaders participating in a video conference to announce the plan. US president Donald Trump recently criticised the WHO’s handling of the pandemic and announced a withdrawal of US funding to the organisation

“The world needs these tools and needs them fast,” WHO director general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus told the group. “We are facing a common threat which we can only defeat with a common approach,” he said.

Other coronavirus developments

The company that owns Dettol and Lysol has issued a strong warning not to inject or ingest its products under any circumstance after Donald Trump falsely suggested disinfectants could be used as a treatment for coronavirus. Disinfectants are hazardous substances, which can be poisonous if ingested.

The US state of Georgia has controversially re-opened hair salons, gyms and other non-essential businesses, even as coronavirus deaths continue to rise. 

A new website for essential workers in the UK to book coronavirus tests reached capacity and was temporarily closed within hours of being opened by the government.

The Czech Republic has re-opened its borders for outbound travel after official figures showed a decline in the rate of confirmed covid-19 cases. The country was among the first in the Schengen area to close its borders on 16 March.

In Iran and Pakistan there are concerns about the reluctance of officials to enforce social distancing rules for large gatherings now that the holy month of Ramadan has begun. Many Muslims in the US are opting for video conferencing instead of meeting in person for meals and prayers.

Japanese officials are investigating an unexpected outbreak of coronavirus on a cruise ship which has been docked in Nagasaki for almost three months. As of yesterday 47 crew have tested positive for the virus but it remains unclear how the outbreak started.

Coronavirus numbers

New Scientist Default Image

The worldwide death toll has passed 192,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 2.7 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Contact tracing: Many countries are using covid-19 contact tracers to help tackle the pandemic. But what is it like to be a contact tracer and what do they do?

Antibody testing: A few initial surveys looking at how many people have antibodies against the coronavirus have suggested that far more people have been infected than previously thought. But we need to be very cautious about these preliminary results.

Coping with lockdown: The coronavirus pandemic is likely to be bad for our mental health, as many people are now experiencing the effects of social isolation, financial distress and the potential loss of loved ones. Virtual sessions and mental health apps have been touted as a potential solution.

Putting things into perspective: The coronavirus pandemic is making life feel slower than ever, but observing timescales across the universe can bring us some comfort, writes Chanda Prescod-Weinstein.

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Retirement home residents in Brandenburg, Germany on 16 April 2020

Christoph Soeder/DPA/PA Images

Latest coronavirus news as of 5 pm on 23 April

Up to half of Europe’s coronavirus deaths have been in care homes

Up to half of those who have died from covid-19 in Europe were in care homes, according to Hans Kluge, the World Health Organization (WHO) regional director for Europe. Describing the finding as “deeply concerning”, Kluge said that many care homes may be “providing pathways for the virus to spread” and the problem has been made worse because care home workers are “overstretched, underpaid and unprotected.”

Yesterday, the UK government’s chief medical adviser Chris Witty said it was hard to prevent deaths in care homes “sadly because this is a very vulnerable group.”

Other coronavirus developments

Deaths due to malaria could double in sub-Saharan Africa this year compared to 2018, because of the impact of the coronavirus pandemic on access to mosquito nets and anti-malarial drugs. “Countries have a critical window of opportunity now to ensure malaria services are maintained even as the virus spreads,” said WHO director general, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus.

More than 15 per cent of the US workforce has now filed for unemployment benefits. An additional 4.4 million US citizens filed jobless claims in the last week, bringing the total since mid-March to 26.4 million. The US house of representatives will vote today on an additional $480 billion coronavirus relief package for small businesses and hospitals.

The UK’s budget deficit is expected to see “an absolutely colossal increase to a level not seen in peacetime,” according to Paul Johnson, the director of the Institute for Fiscal Studies think tank. The deficit is expected to reach as high as £260 billion, he said.

German chancellor Angela Merkel has said Germany is ready to make “significantly higher” EU budget contributions to help member states cope with the impact of the coronavirus pandemic. EU leaders are expected to sign off a new €540 billion emergency fund for the most severely affected countries but details are yet to be finalised.

China has pledged to donate an additional $30 million to the WHO to help support the global fight against the covid-19, according to a spokesperson from the Chinese Foreign Ministry.

Ryanair’s chief executive Michael O’Leary has said Ryanair will not return to flying if the airline is forced to leave the middle seat empty to comply with social distancing rules. “Either the [Irish] government pays for the middle seat or we won’t fly,” he said.

Coronavirus numbers

New Scientist Default Image

The worldwide death toll has passed 185,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 2.6 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Coronavirus in waste water: We don’t know exactly how many people have been infected with the coronavirus due to a lack of comprehensive testing, but we could begin monitoring about 2 billion people worldwide right now, simply by looking for the pathogen in sewage.

BCG vaccine trial: A trial is planned to test whether the BCG vaccine, used by some countries to protect against TB, may also offer some protection against covid-19.

Essential information about coronavirus

What is covid-19?

What are the worst symptoms and how deadly is covid-19?

Can you catch the coronavirus twice?

You could be spreading the coronavirus without realising you’ve got it

How and when will the coronavirus lockdowns end?

What to read, watch and listen to about coronavirus

The science of a pandemic: As the death toll from covid-19 rises, discover how researchers around the world are racing to understand the virus and prevent future outbreaks in our free online panel discussion.

A day in the life of coronavirus Britain is an uplifting Channel 4 documentary shot over 24 hours which shows how the citizens of Britain are coping under lockdown.

New Scientist Weekly features updates and analysis on the latest developments in the covid-19 pandemic. Our podcast sees expert journalists from the magazine discuss the biggest science stories to hit the headlines each week – from technology and space, to health and the environment.

The Rules of Contagion is about the new science of contagion and the surprising ways it shapes our lives and behaviour. The author, Adam Kucharski, is an epidemiologist at the London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine, UK, and in the book he examines how things spread and why they stop.

Coronavirus trajectory tracker explained, a video by John Burn-Murdoch for the Financial Times, uses data-visualisation to explain the daily graphs that show how coronavirus cases and deaths are growing around the world.

Contagion: The BBC Four Pandemic is a sober documentary about the progression of a hypothetical pandemic which the BBC simulated in 2017. Fronted by science journalist and TV presenter Hannah Fry, and made with the support of some of the country’s best epidemiologists and mathematical modelers, it’s very relevant to today’s covid-19 pandemic.

Previous updates

 

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Nurses part of National Nurses United, the largest nurses union in the US, protest in front of the White House about the lack of personal protective equipment on 21 April 2020 in Washington, DC.

Win McNamee/Getty Images

22 April

Warning of a second coronavirus wave in the US

A second wave of coronavirus cases in the US could be even worse than the first, according to the director of the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Robert Redfield. He said a second wave would coincide with the flu season and put “unimaginable strain” on the US healthcare system.

The US has more than 820,000 confirmed cases and more than 45,000 deaths from covid-19, the highest in the world, according to the most recent figures from Johns Hopkins University

Other coronavirus developments

The pandemic has already caused at least 41,000 deaths in the UK, according to a Financial Times analysis of “excess deaths” data from the country’s Office for National Statistics. The government death toll stands at 18,000 deaths as of 22 April. 

About 50 patients have been turned away from the NHS Nightingale hospital, a temporary hospital for covid-19 patients in London, UK, due to there not being enough nurses.

The US state of Missouri is attempting to sue the Chinese government over its handling of the coronavirus outbreak. Missouri attorney general Eric Schmitt says residents have suffered significant economic damages because China did not do enough to stop the spread of the virus. A spokesperson from China’s foreign ministry says US courts have no jurisdiction over the Chinese government.

Spain’s parliament is debating whether to extend the country’s state of emergency for a third time to 9 May. Prime minister Pedro Sanchez says the lockdown could start to be gradually phased out towards the end of May. Spain has the most confirmed coronavirus cases of any European country.

A potential vaccine for covid-19 developed by Pfizer and BioNTech has been given regulatory approval for human testing. There are at least 70 vaccine candidates at exploratory or pre-clinical stages, but only a small number have been given the greenlight for clinical testing, and development of a viable vaccine is expected to take at least a year.

Netflix gained nearly 16 million new subscribers in the first quarter of 2020, twice as many as predicted by analysts, as people turned to streaming to provide entertainment amid coronavirus travel restrictions.

Coronavirus numbers

New Scientist Default Image

The worldwide death toll has passed 179,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 2.5 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Mental health during the pandemic: From social isolation to working on the front line, the mental health challenges of the pandemic are wide reaching. We ask experts how to protect ourselves.

Protect chimps, says Jane Goodall: We must protect chimpanzees from being exposed to covid-19, Goodall told New Scientist. “It is a big worry,” she says. “Once the virus gets into them, which I pray it won’t, then I don’t know what can be done.”

Zoom call misunderstandings: Video calling on platforms like Zoom is growing in popularity as the world adapts to travel restrictions. But not getting enough sleep may make you misread emotions on video calls.

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A worker carries a sack of wheat flour at a World Food Programme food aid distribution centre in Sanaa, Yemen on 11 February 2020

KHALED ABDULLAH/Reuters/PA Images

21 April

Pandemic likely to increase the number of people facing hunger

The covid-19 pandemic will double the number of people with acute hunger, according to the United Nations World Food Programme. If no action is taken to support people in low and middle-income countries, more than 265 million people will be in crisis and will find it difficult to source or pay for food by the end of 2020, up from 135 million in 2019.

Other coronavirus developments

US president Donald Trump has said that immigration to the US is to be temporarily suspended due to the pandemic, but it’s unclear whether Trump would be legally allowed to carry out the order.

Confirmed cases of coronavirus have more than doubled in Singapore since last week, rising to more than 9000, the highest in southeast Asia. Many of the new infections have been reported in government-built dormitories that house up to 200,000 migrant workers, some with up to 20 people in a single room.

More than 28,000 coronavirus deaths may be “missing” from official government death tolls, according to a New York Times analysis of data from 11 countries and regions including Spain, England, Wales, France and New York City. 

The UK’s Office for National Statistics said there were 18,516 deaths of all causes in the week that ended on 10 April, the highest figure for any week since a winter flu outbreak in 2000.

Milan has announced a new scheme to reduce car use after lockdown by reallocating 35 km of street space from cars to cyclists and pedestrians. 

Oil prices continue to fall worldwide, with the price of a barrel of Brent crude falling to below $20 today, the lowest price since 2002.

Australia’s second biggest airline Virgin Australia has entered administration due to the impact of the coronavirus but is continuing to operate all scheduled flights. In the UK, entrepreneur Richard Branson, a 10 per cent owner of Virgin Australia, is seeking financial aid from the UK government to support Virgin Atlantic.

Coronavirus numbers

New Scientist Default Image

The worldwide death toll has passed 171,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 2.5 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Covid-19 is hitting ethnic minorities harder: People from an ethnic minority are disproportionately affected by covid-19. Researchers say the reasons are rooted in existing social and healthcare inequalities.

Can breathing exercises help?: Deep breaths and forced coughs might help clear mucus but are unlikely to help people with a dry cough and mild cases of covid-19 – contrary to much advice circulating on social media.

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Social distancing protesters carry rifles near the steps of the Michigan State Capitol building in Lansing, Michigan on Wednesday 15 April 2020.

Paul Sancya/AP/Shutterstock

20 April

Pro-gun groups promote social distancing protests in the US

On Friday, US president Donald Trump posted a series of tweets endorsing protests against social distancing measures in Minnesota, Michigan and Virginia. Over the weekend, more protests took place, including in Denver, Colorado, where nurses stood in the road to block drivers on the way to gatherings.

An investigation by the Washington Post found that the protests were promoted using Facebook groups set up by a small group of far-right, pro-gun activists with ties to the husband of education secretary Betsy DeVos. More than 95 per cent of Democrat and 70 per cent of Republican voters support stay-at-home measures, according to recent polling.

More than 760,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 40,000 deaths have been reported in the US, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University, although this will be an underestimate. 

Other coronavirus developments

The drop in demand for transport caused by the pandemic helped US oil prices fall to below $3 a barrel today, down from pre-pandemic prices of $60 a barrel.

No new coronavirus cases were recorded in Hong Kong yesterday for the first time since 5 March.

Spain’s daily death toll has fallen below 400 for the first time since 11 March. 399 people were confirmed to have died of covid-19 yesterday, the lowest number in four weeks.

The UK government has been criticised for its response to the coronavirus pandemic after the Sunday Times reported that Boris Johnson missed five Cobra meetings about the virus between January and the start of March.  The Department of Health and Social Care has issued a lengthy response

The government’s coronavirus job retention scheme, which covers up to 80 per cent of employee wages up to a limit of £2500 per month, opened this morning. Up to 8 million people are predicted to apply for the scheme.

People who have recovered from coronavirus in the UK are being asked to donate blood plasma as part of a potential clinical trial to learn whether their antibodies could help fight the disease.

Non-essential shops in some German states including car dealers, book and bicycle shops reopened today, as the country continues to gradually ease some of its restrictions. 

Millions of people in India working in farming, fisheries and plantations were allowed to return to work as the government eased some coronavirus restrictions in order to avoid food shortages.

Coronavirus numbers

New Scientist Default Image

The worldwide death toll has passed 166,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 2.4 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Game-changing treatment: We keep hearing claims that this or that drug will be a game changer in the coronavirus pandemic. But what would a treatment really need to do to be a true game changer? 

End-of-life decisions: The coronavirus pandemic is forcing people to confront dilemmas around how much medical care should be given at the end of life. The emergency situation means doctors and patients are having to rush controversial decisions about turning down certain treatments, say palliative care experts.

UK coronavirus science advice: Key scientific data and advice the UK government is using to guide its covid-19 response won’t be published until the pandemic ends, according to Patrick Vallance, the government’s chief scientific adviser.  

How is the pandemic affecting men and women differently? Caroline Criado Perez speaks to New Scientist about gender biases in the time of coronavirus on the Big Interview podcast and our YouTube channel. 

Previous updates

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Medical workers at Wuhan Union Hospital during a three minute national memorial on 4 April 2020.

Wu Yili/China News Service via Getty Images

17 April

Death toll in Wuhan revised up by 50 per cent

China has revised the covid-19 death toll in Wuhan up by 50 per cent to 3869 from 2579, saying the total number now accounts for deaths at home and delays in reporting. The Chinese government has denied any cover-up in its handling of the crisis or sharing of data. 

French president Emmanuel Macron has questioned China’s management of the outbreak, saying “there are clearly things that have happened that we don’t know about”.

UK social distancing extended

The UK has confirmed that its social distancing measures will last for at least another three weeks and financial support for furloughed employees will be extended for an additional month until the end of June

Foreign minister Dominic Raab outlined five conditions that need to be met before restrictions will be eased including a “sustained and consistent” fall in the daily death rate and adequate testing.

Health minister Matt Hancock said that 18,000 coronavirus tests are being carried out in the UK each day. The country is now less than two weeks away from the government’s target of doing 100,000 daily tests. Hancock said the vast majority of the tests so far were NHS swab tests for patients and key workers, and that antibody tests – which could show a person has had the virus and is immune – were still not ready for clinical use. In March, the government paid £16 million up front to two Chinese companies for untested antibody tests which were subsequently found not to work

The public will not be told to wear cloth face masks unless scientists say it is necessary, according to transport minister Grant Shapps. It is unclear whether cloth face masks minimise the spread of the coronavirus, but many places around the world, including New York, have made it mandatory to wear them outside. 

Other coronavirus developments

China’s economy shrank by nearly 7 per cent in the first quarter of this year, as factories and businesses were forced to close due to the coronavirus outbreak. This is the first reported drop in the country’s GDP since the 1970s.

Donald Trump has issued guidance to state governors recommending a three-phase approach to reopening their economies, but acknowledged that it is up to individual state governors to decide how to relax restrictions.

Germany’s health minister Jens Spahn has said the country’s coronavirus outbreak is now “controllable” and that the German healthcare system has “at no time been overwhelmed.”

The world’s biggest trial of drugs to treat covid-19 patients, with over 5000 participants, has been set up in the UK and hopes to have answers about whether or not some drugs improve outcomes “within weeks.”

Coronavirus numbers

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This chart is the latest count of deaths as reported by different governments, not the actual number of deaths in the last 24 hours. The UK is now shown with two lines: one shows the number of deaths in all locations with a significant lag; the other, deaths that occurred in hospitals. Recent US and China numbers include revisions to include previously uncounted deaths in care homes.

Matthew Rowett

The worldwide death toll has passed 147,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 2.1 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Contact tracing apps may not work: As countries search for ways to exit lockdown and avoid or manage a second wave of covid-19 cases, many have turned to the promise held by contact tracing apps. But there is growing evidence that it will be difficult to make them work.

Covid-19 in men: We know that older people are more vulnerable to covid-19, but another major risk factor has emerged: being male. Why are men more likely to get worse symptoms and die from covid-19?

UK’s coronavirus science advice won’t be published until pandemic ends: “It’s disgraceful,” says Allyson Pollock, director of the Institute of Health and Society at Newcastle University, UK, who was one of dozens of experts who published a letter in The Lancet medical journal last month arguing that government advisors should be more transparent.

Coronavirus crisis could cut UK electricity needs: The coronavirus-led shutdown of large parts of the economy is likely to cut the UK’s electricity needs dramatically this summer, potentially by as much as a fifth. 

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Protesters in North Carolin want the state economy to be opened up no later than April 29.

LOGAN CYRUS/AFP via Getty Images

16 April

Millions more claim unemployment benefits in the US

Another 5.2 million US citizens filed for unemployment benefits last week, bringing the total for the last four weeks to 22 million claims. That’s about 13 per cent of the country’s entire workforce, the highest unemployment rate since the start of the second world war.

President Donald Trump is expected to announce guidelines on re-opening the US economy later today but many state leaders have said they are not ready to relax restrictions and that the decision on how best to proceed without causing a second wave of infections depends on testing capacity

Yesterday the US reported 4811 deaths, the highest daily death toll of any country. More than 640,000 confirmed coronavirus cases and 31,000 deaths have been reported in the US according to John Hopkins University data.

Other coronavirus developments

The president of the European Commission, Ursula von der Leyen, offered an apology to Italy on behalf of Europe for not offering enough support at the start of the country’s covid-19 crisis. Italy has reported more than 21,000 deaths from coronavirus, the highest number in any European country. “Too many were not there on time when Italy needed a helping hand,” she told the European Parliament.

The head of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, has said that the UK and European Union should not refuse to extend the negotiating period for a post-Brexit trade deal, as this would add to uncertainty during the coronavirus pandemic. If a deal is not signed by 31 December 2020, the UK and EU would trade on World Trade Organization terms which would include new taxes and restrictions on traded goods.

The UK will need to keep a “significant level” of social distancing until a coronavirus vaccine has been found, according to Neil Ferguson, an epidemiologist advising the government whose research previously influenced changes to the UK’s coronavirus policy. However, Mark Woolhouse, an epidemiologist at the University of Edinburgh, UK, recently told New Scientist that waiting for a vaccine wasn’t a good plan: “I do not think waiting for a vaccine should be dignified with the word ‘strategy’. It’s not a strategy, it’s a hope.”

A new type of ventilator to support covid-19 patients has received regulatory approval in the UK, and the government has confirmed an order for 15,000.

Germany has become the latest of several European countries to announce a gradual easing of coronavirus lockdowns in coming weeks. Stores up to 800 square metres will be allowed to reopen as long as they follow strict hygiene measures, according to chancellor Angela Merkel.

EasyJet is exploring the option of keeping certain seats empty to stay in line with social distancing rules once coronavirus travel restrictions are lifted. EasyJet’s entire fleet of aircraft have been grounded since 30 March. It is unclear whether such measures would do anything to lessen the spread of the virus on board planes.

Coronavirus numbers

New Scientist Default Image

The number of deaths reported in the UK only includes deaths in hospitals.

Matthew Rowett

The worldwide death toll has passed 139,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 2 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Intensive care doctors share their stories: Three doctors reveal what it was like at the heart of Hubei province’s coronavirus crisis, as the epidemic peaked in Wuhan and spread across the world.

Why are men more likely to get worse symptoms and die from coronanvirus? The difference does not appear to be caused by differential rates of infection: a New York study, for example, found that equal numbers of men and women catch the virus. But men are more likely to progress to severe illness and death.

Gravediggers wearing protective suits

Gravediggers wearing protective suits in Vila Formosa, São Paulo, Brazil’s biggest cemetary.

REUTERS/Amanda Perobelli

15 April

Worldwide coronavirus cases pass 2 million

There have now been more than 2 million confirmed cases of coronavirus worldwide according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University, although the true number of cases will be much higher. The total number climbed from 1 million to 2 million confirmed cases in less than two weeks, and more than 600,000 cases have been recorded in the US alone.

Other coronavirus developments

One of the temporary hospitals built in Wuhan, China, in February has been closed and put on standby. More than half of all new cases of coronavirus in China since the start of April have come from abroad, many travelling across land borders with Russia which are now closed.

Taiwan reported no new coronavirus cases for the first time yesterday in 36 days. Health minister Chen Shih-chung said identifying, isolating, and tracing all contacts of people infected with coronavirus was the reason no new cases were detected.

South Korea held an election today under strict social distancing measures to minimise spreading the coronavirus. Voters, many of whom were wearing masks and gloves, were told to stand at least 1 metre apart from one another and before entering the polling station, everyone’s temperature was taken. Anyone whose temperature was above 37.5C would be taken to a separate area to vote, away from other people.

US president Donald Trump has said the US will stop giving funding to the World Health Organization (WHO) although it’s still unclear how this change will be implemented. The US is the largest individual contributor to the WHO’s funding, providing $553 million of the WHO’s $6 billion budget last year. UN secretary-general António Guterres said now was “not the time” to cut the WHO’s resources.

New Zealand’s prime minister Jacinda Ardern and other government ministers will take a 20 per cent pay cut for six months in solidarity with those affected by the coronavirus outbreak.

Many countries in Africa have introduced lockdowns in response to the pandemic, but there are concerns that this could do more harm than good. A large number of people in many African countries rely on daily cash earned in markets to buy food.

India will relax restrictions for people working in farming, banking and public works, but transport services and most other businesses are to remain shut. The country’s national lockdown was recently extended and will now end on 3 May. In some cities, news of the extension prompted thousands of migrant workers to take to the streets in protest, demanding that they be allowed to return home to their villages.

Coronavirus numbers

graph with coronavirus total deaths in selected countries

The worldwide death toll has passed 129,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 2 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Post-viral fatigue: Conditions like chronic fatigue syndrome have been linked to viral infections, so it’s possible that the covid-19 virus may go on to trigger similar conditions.

Relationships during lockdown: Robin Dunbar has spent decades studying relationships, social bonding and the importance of touch and grooming in forging and sustaining our ties to others. As much of the world remains in lockdown, unable to meet loved ones and friends in person, New Scientist caught up with him to ask what implications this might have.

a worker on the streets of bilbao

A worker in Bilbao, Spain on Tuesday 14 April.

H. Bilbao/Europa Press via Getty Images

14 April

Some European countries begin easing restrictions

Some European countries are allowing certain non-essential workers to return to their jobs this week, most notably in Spain, which has been one of the countries worst affected by the pandemic. More than 300,000 people who work in construction and manufacturing who cannot work from home will be allowed to return, but schools and restaurants will remain shut. 

Austria plans to open most shops including malls and hairdressers from 1 May, but restaurants and hotels will remain closed and cloth face masks will be mandatory for everyone outdoors. In Italy, bookshops and children’s clothing shops opened today and in Denmark this week, some nurseries and schools will allow children to return. German chancellor Angela Merkel will consider relaxing restrictions across Germany in a meeting on 15 April.

In France, lockdown measures could be extended until 11 May. The UK government is also likely to extend the lockdown and may introduce further restrictions including banning outdoor exercise if people don’t follow social distancing laws. However, the UK lockdown has been less restrictive than in other countries, and has not applied to many jobs that cannot be conducted from home, including construction. According to the Office for National Statistics, more than a fifth of deaths in England and Wales the week ending 3 April were linked to coronavirus.

In the US, which has the most confirmed cases and deaths of any country in the world, president Donald Trump has said he wants to ease restrictions from 1 May. In a press conference yesterday he claimed he had “total” authority to lift the lockdown, drawing criticism from state governors including New York governor Andrew Cuomo who said Trump was acting like a “king”. 

India’s national lockdown will be extended until at least 3 May, according to prime minister Narendra Modi. The lockdown was originally scheduled to end today. Modi said some restrictions in regions outside of infection hotspots would be eased on 20 April to help poorer people who are dependent on daily wages.

Other coronavirus developments

Two of the world’s largest pharmaceutical companies, GlaxoSmithKline and Sanofi, say they will work together on a coronavirus vaccine, which could be trialled in humans within months.

International Monetary Fund (IMF) chief economist Gita Gopinath has said that the coronavirus crisis could remove $9 trillion from global GDP over the next two years, a 3 per cent decline in the global economy.

A study has suggested that prolonged or intermittent social distancing may have to extend into 2022 to prevent hospitals from being overwhelmed.

Coronavirus numbers

graph of coronavirus deaths in selected countries

The daily death toll in the US is higher than any country and the total number of deaths is now approaching 25,000.

Matthew Rowett

The worldwide death toll has passed 121,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 1.9 million, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Ebola and coronavirus: Fresh cases of Ebola have been detected just days before the deadly epidemic in eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo was to be declared over. The problem is made worse by the emergence of coronavirus in the DRC last month.

How to end lockdown: An end to lockdown is many weeks away for some nations, but decisions on how to do it need to be made now so we can make preparations and communicate it clearly. 

An ambulance in Brooklyn, New York

An ambulance in Brooklyn, New York

John Minchillo/AP/Shutterstock

9 April

Worldwide cases pass 1.5 million

More than 1.5 million confirmed cases have been infected with the coronavirus and at least 90,000 people have died, according to the latest figures from Johns Hopkins University.

Yesterday more than 2000 deaths were recorded in the US for the second day in a row, while in the UK the daily death toll hit a record 938. Spain, the country with the highest number of detected cases in Europe, reported 683 deaths – lower than the previous two days. 

Other coronavirus developments

More than 6 million people filed for unemployment benefits in the US last week, bringing the total number of claims in the last three weeks above 16 million. Two people in the US have been charged with terrorism offences after threatening to spread the coronavirus.

US president Donald Trump has threatened to cut government funding for the World Health Organization (WHO) and criticised the organisation’s response to the pandemic for being “China centric” and for withholding information. Lawrence Gostin, a public health law professor at Georgetown University, said its annual budget was insufficient for its role and should be increased.

Italy’s prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, has warned that the European Union (EU) risks failing as a political project unless member countries share the financial cost of the coronavirus crisis. Conte called upon the EU to rise to the challenge of “the biggest test since the Second World War.”

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has now spent three nights in intensive care with covid-19.

People from ethnic minority backgrounds in the UK are being disproportionately impacted by the outbreak according to the non-profit Intensive Care National Audit and Research Centre. A similar pattern seems to be occurring in the US.


Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 90,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 1,500,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Do facemasks work?: As cases of covid-19 continue to rise in many countries, many people are choosing to wear a face mask when out in public – but do they work?

Fever can help the immune system: Fever is a pain, quite literally, but new evidence hints at its purpose. Here’s what you need to know.

Coronavirus and internet use: The covid-19 pandemic has many of us stuck at home. The result could completely reshape how we use the internet, writes Annalee Newitz.

As one epidemic ends, another begins: The WHO is set to declare the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ebola epidemic over on Sunday, but now the country must pivot to fight covid-19 instead.

woman attendant on train leaving wuhan after coronavirus lockdown ends

A train attendantwaves to passengers before departing from Wuhan, China today.

Xinhua/Shutterstock

8 April

Lockdown lifted in Wuhan

The lockdown in Wuhan, China, which has been in place since 23 January was lifted today, four months after the world’s first reported coronavirus cases were detected there last year.

People with a “green” code on a government-issued smartphone health app are now allowed to leave the city, and train, road and rail connections have reopened. Some limits on transport remain and schools will stay closed for now.

Other coronavirus developments

The number of confirmed coronavirus cases in Africa has passed 10,000, with more than 500 deaths across the continent from covid-19 so far.

The US recorded the world’s highest death toll in a single day on Tuesday, with more than 1800 deaths.

UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s condition is “improving” after he spent two nights in intensive care in hospital being treated for covid-19.

Mauro Ferrari, the president of the European Research Council (ERC), the EU’s most prestigious scientific research organisation, has resigned and criticised the EU’s coronavirus response. Ferrari wanted the ERC to provide funding for a large-scale programme to support scientists researching covid-19, but his proposal was rejected.

The coronavirus can infect and replicate in domestic cats and ferrets, but replicates poorly in dogs, pigs, chickens and ducks, according to a study. The virus is thought to have originated in bats, although it is not known if the virus crossed over into other animals before it first spread to humans. 

Researchers are investigating whether people who have recently recovered from mild coronavirus infections can become infected again. A preliminary study found that 175 recently-recovered individuals had unexpectedly low levels of antibodies against the virus, which might be too low to provide protection.

Coronavirus numbers

The worldwide death toll has passed 83,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 1,400,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

chart showing coronavirus death count by country on 8 april 2020

The worldwide death toll has passed 83,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 1,400,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Protecting children: Children will face many hidden negative effects from the new coronavirus, but it’s not too late to avert them, says Paul Ramchandani.

Covid-19 risk for underlying conditions: Does a cell surface protein explain why the coronavirus is more likely to kill people with diabetes or heart disease? Researchers are trying to find out.

Coronavirus uder control in Australia: Early signs suggest Australia is starting to beat the coronavirus, with the rate of new infections slowing for more than a week. How is it achieving this and will the trend continue?

 

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People gather along the waterfront of the Bund in Shanghai, China on 7 April 2020.

Yves Dean/Getty Images

7 April

No new deaths in China and hope of a plateau in New York

China reported no new coronavirus deaths today for the first time since the outbreak started. Concerns remain about a second wave of infections being brought into China by people arriving from abroad. A total of 32 new cases were confirmed in China today, all of whom had arrived from other countries.

There are hopes that the outbreak may be starting to plateau in New York. The state reported 599 deaths yesterday, on par with previous days. Over 4800 people have died of coronavirus in New York, nearly half the national death toll.

Other coronavirus developments

The UK prime minister, Boris Johnson, spent the night in intensive care with covid-19, and is reported to be in a stable condition in hospital. Although he did receive oxygen support, he did not require ventilation, Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove said this morning.

US president Donald Trump has said he asked US pharmaceutical companies working on experimental coronavirus drugs to approach Boris Johnson’s doctors and offer their help.

People in Wisconsin are casting their votes in the Democratic presidential primary today, as well as electing a state supreme court judge. The state’s governor tried to call off the election because of the risk to public health, but his decision was overruled by the state supreme court.

African-Americans may be disproportionately affected by covid-19, according to data from some states, but the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are not releasing data on race or ethnicity at a national level.

Japan’s prime minister Shinzo Abe has declared a state of emergency in seven urban centres with high numbers of covid-19 cases, including Tokyo. The country reported seven more deaths yesterday, bringing the country’s total to 91.

Brexit trade negotiations have stalled as the UK and EU have yet to agree a timetable for video-conferencing to replace meetings that were disrupted by the pandemic.

The International Air Transport Association (IATA) is urging the UN to set the baseline from which air traffic growth will be judged to pre-pandemic levels, saying that setting the baseline with air traffic at half the normal levels would create an “inappropriate economic burden.”


Coronavirus numbers

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Daily death tolls in Spain and Italy are declining as the UK and France follow Italy’s trajectory. The daily death toll in the US continues to accelerate, with 1164 deaths reported yesterday.

Matthew Rowett

 

The worldwide death toll has passed 78,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 1,300,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Coronavirus exit strategies: How do we get out of lockdown? There are three main strategies for leaving coronavirus lockdown, but each risks a dangerous second wave and further lockdowns if things don’t go as planned.

What is an ECMO?: An ECMO machine is a life support machine that takes over the function of the heart and lungs. It’s different from a ventilator, which enhances the function of a patient’s own lungs. 

Post-pandemic fiction: Resident Evil 3 provides a glimpse into post-pandemic fiction, writes Jacob Aron. The game is a remake of Resident Evil 3: Nemesis, which was released for the original PlayStation in 1999.

US Army personnel in New York City

US Army personnel wearing masks in New York City.

Kena Betancur/Getty Images

6 April

Daily death tolls decline in Europe’s worst-hit countries as US braces for “peak death week”

In Europe, Italy and Spain have the highest number of confirmed cases and deaths from covid-19, but infections appear to be slowing and the number of new deaths in both countries has been falling for several days in a row. The number of deaths in one day in Spain peaked on Thursday last week, when 950 people died; yesterday, the Spanish government reported 637 deaths. The number of deaths in Italy peaked with 919 deaths on 27 March, compared with 525 deaths reported yesterday. 

The lockdown measures in both countries have been extended, with restrictions in Spain set to last until at least 25 April. Silvio Brusaferro, head of Italy’s public health institute, says that the lockdown measures have led to a “significant slowdown in the spread” of the virus.

The US, which is now the worst-affected country in the world, is bracing for “peak death week”, according to White House officials. US surgeon general, Jerome Adams, warned that this will be “the hardest and the saddest week of most Americans’ lives.” US president Donald Trump pointed to the signs of change in Europe as “the light at the end of the tunnel.”

Some lockdown measures are gradually being lifted in Europe including in Austria which will start reopening non-essential shops, with strict hygiene measures, next week. The Czech government is also considering relaxing lockdown measures, with more shops allowed to reopen from 9 April. Danish prime minister Mette Frederikse, announced last week that restrictions in the country would gradually be lifted after Easter.

Other coronavirus developments

The stock markets on Wall Street opened higher today, as investors appear to welcome signs that coronavirus outbreaks are stabilising in some of the worst-affected countries, including Spain and Italy.

Scientists have warned that a large stock of 17.5 million home antibody testing kits ordered by the UK government could be unreliable, failing to detect up to half of coronavirus cases.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson spent last night in hospital for tests after testing positive for coronavirus 10 days ago.

Europe is seeing a drop in air pollution similar to that seen in China during lockdown. Scientists detected a drop in nitrogen dioxide emissions over several cities including Paris, Milan and Madrid.

A tiger at the Bronx Zoo has tested positive for coronavirus. The tiger is one of seven big cats to be diagnosed.

Coronavirus numbers

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Daily death tolls in Spain and Italy are starting to drop from their peaks

Matthew Rowett

 

The worldwide death toll has passed 70,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 1,200,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Coronavirus death toll has little meaning: With all the unknowns about covid-19, any numbers you hear about the global death toll or how long restrictions will last should be taken not just with a pinch of salt but with a sack of it.

How realistic is Contagion?: The 2011 film Contagion is one of the few Hollywood productions that realistically portrays the process of science – both its successes and frustrations. Scientists race to develop ways of fighting back against a fictional deadly virus, which kills people within days of infection.

testing for coronavirus at chessington world of adventures

Tests being carried out at a coronavirus testing site in a car park at Chessington World of Adventures near London

Jonathan Brady/PA Wire/PA Images

3 April

Worldwide cases pass one million

Coronavirus cases and deaths have begun to plateau in some European countries, including Italy and Spain, although cases and deaths continue to accelerate in the UK and the US. More people in the UK have died with coronavirus than in China, according to today’s figures from Johns Hopkins University.

In the US hospitals across the country are coming under increasing strain. In Louisiana, the death toll is mounting and there are concerns that the state could run out of hospital beds. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo has ordered the National Guard to seize and redistribute any ventilators and personal protective equipment from facilities in the state. Florida has issued a stay-at-home order – over the past week cases in the state have been growing by hundreds daily.

There have now been more than one million confirmed coronavirus cases diagnosed across the globe, though the true number of cases will be much higher. More than 55,000 people have died from covid-19.

UK government faces questions over testing

UK health secretary, Matt Hancock, has pledged to have 100,000 people in England tested per day by the end of the month, following criticism of the UK’s coronavirus testing strategy.
Last month, Boris Johnson promised to move up to 25,000 tests a day with a goal of 250,000, but the UK is still only carrying out around 10,000 coronavirus tests per day.

The new testing target for England includes the introduction of antibody tests, to check whether people have already had the virus, in addition to the existing swab tests, which determine whether a person is currently infected. Antibody tests are still being validated and the government says they won’t roll them out if they aren’t effective.

Other coronavirus developments

Following widespread debate over whether people should wear masks in public spaces, a new study has found that surgical face masks could prevent people with symptoms from spreading seasonal human coronaviruses and influenza viruses. It is not yet clear whether these findings could be extended to more severe coronaviruses, such as the covid-19 virus, as the study did not include any participants with covid-19, SARS or MERS.

The White House is expected to advise US citizens in coronavirus hotspots to wear non-medical cloth masks or scarves in public places to help limit the spread of the virus.

Authorities in Mumbai, India, are concerned about the spread of coronavirus in Dharavi slum, one of the planet’s most densely populated areas where up to 1 million people live in cramped and unsanitary conditions.

A North Korean official has claimed that “not one single person” in the country is infected with coronavirus. The claim has been met with significant scepticism, given that North Korea shares borders with China and South Korea – two of the worst affected countries globally.

There are concerns that the Cheltenham Festival in the UK may have contributed to the spread of coronavirus across the country. More than 250,000 people attended the horseracing meeting between 10 and13 March.

The Zaandam and Rotterdam cruise ships have docked in Florida after spending weeks at sea with passengers ill and dying of covid-19 aboard. The Coral Princess cruise ship, which was turned away from Buenos Aires, Argentina, on 19 March, is expected to arrive in Florida on Sunday.


Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 55,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 1,000,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Death rate: Why we still don’t know what the death rate is for covid-19.

 

Impact on poorer countries: The covid-19 pandemic may prove disastrous for the world’s poorest people, including those living in slums and refugee camps.


China’s wildlife trade: China’s ban on eating and trading wildlife due to the coronavirus crisis could become law within the next three months, according to conservationists.

Best sci-fi to stream: Looking for something to do during lockdown? These are the best science fiction TV shows to stream right now.

Getting the health benefits of nature: Going out into the natural world is good for your health and mind, and you can still get some of the same benefits even when stuck inside.

healthcare worker fighting coronavirus in brookly new york

A healthcare worker is seen by the Brooklyn Hospital Center in New York

Tayfun Coskun/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

2 April

New York City hospitals and morgues overwhelmed

A doctor in New York City has described the situation in hospitals as “apocalyptic, complete chaos.” They said, “We just aren’t able to offer people a proper standard of care – like sitting and talking to them about their treatment – and it’s getting worse day by day.” Some of the morgues in the city are already filled to capacity

US unemployment claims hit new record

A record 6.6 million US citizens applied for unemployment benefits last week, reflecting thehuge impact of the coronavirus pandemic on the economy. The job losses have mostly affected people who work in retail, restaurants, travel, hotels and leisure industries. The previous weekly unemployment record was set a week earlier, at 3.3 million. State services across the US have been overwhelmed with the large numbers of people filing for benefits.

Other coronavirus developments

The Indian government has launched a coronavirus tracker app that alerts people if they have crossed paths with someone infected with the virus. The app, called Aarogya Setu or “bridge to health”, uses the smartphone’s location data and Bluetooth to check where infected people are and to alert users in their vicinity. Similar technology has been used in China.

The US coast guard is directing cruise ships registered in the Bahamas to seek aid there first, even if they are owned by Miami based companies. All ships with more than 50 people on board have been advised that they may be sequestered indefinitely.

Australian prime minister Scott Morrison has announced that parents will be offered free childcare. The government has pledged A$1.6 billion to ensure childcare centres remain open, provided they do not charge parents.

A preliminary study has suggested that countries with mandatory TB vaccination have fewer coronavirus deaths, but more research is needed to confirm the link. The TB vaccine is being tested to see if it protects people against covid-19.

Amid the lockdown, photographers have captured the world’s silent streets and stations with photographs taken in various cities at midday.

Coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 49,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 960,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

What drugs work?: To fight the new coronavirus, researchers are investigating more than 60 drugs, including remdesivir and hydroxychloroquine and brand new ones.

Orangutans under threat: Orangutans and other endangered great apes are at greater risk because of the threat of covid-19, according to researchers.

Covid-19 and climate change: Our approach to covid-19 can also help tackle climate change. We can’t lose sight of the climate emergency when dealing with the covid-19 pandemic, say Christiana Figueres and Tom Rivett-Carnac.

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US president Donald Trump said at a press conference that the death range would indicate his administration had “done a very good job.”

Chris Kleponis / Pool via CNP | usage worldwide

1 April

Deaths in Italy plateau, while deaths in US and UK continue to accelerate

More than 12,000 people in Italy have died with covid-19 so far, but the number of new cases of coronavirus in Italy has fallen for several days in a row, and the number of new deaths each day is plateauing. The lockdown measures that have been in place in Italy since 9 March will continue until at least the middle of April, according to health minister Roberto Speranza. 

New cases and deaths continue to accelerate in the UK and the US. Yesterday US president Donald Trump said that between 100,000 and 240,000 people will die in the US from the outbreak. The president has been strongly criticised for downplaying the expected impact of the crisis over the last two months.

Other coronavirus developments

Governments around the world are considering whether to recommend that everyone wears face masks in their daily lives. Taiwan has made these mandatory on trains and buses, and Austria plans to make masks compulsory for supermarket shoppers. The US Coronavirus Task Force is considering suggesting that everyone wears face masks, as is Germany.

In the UK, there is continuing concern over the low levels of coronavirus testing. The government has blamed a global shortage of the required chemicals, but the UK Chemicals Industry Association have said there is no shortage. A leaked government briefing note seems to disagree with World Health Organization advice about testing.

Amid uncertainty about the pandemic, Saudi Arabia has asked Muslims planning to take part in the annual Hajj pilgrimage to delay booking their trips.

Data security and privacy concerns have been raised about Zoom, the videoconferencing app now being used by millions of people as more countries are under lockdown. 

Elon Musk announced yesterday that Tesla has purchased FDA-approved ventilators, which he said the firm would give them to hospitals worldwide for free, within Tesla delivery regions.

Timelapse footage has captured the conversion of London’s ExCeL exhibition centre into one of the NHS Nightingale field hospitals built to cope with the expected surge of covid-19 patients.

Coronavirus cases

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The worldwide death toll has passed 44,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 880,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

The hunt for patient zero: Growing evidence suggests the covid-19 outbreak may not have started at Wuhan’s Huanan Seafood Market in December after all. Finding its origins may help us stop it happening again.

New York City: The coronavirus outbreak in New York City is already overwhelming hospitals. Last week, the focus of the outbreak in the US shifted from the west coast to New York City.

Will the spread of covid-19 be affected by changing seasons? The factors that cause flu to decline in spring might apply to covid-19 too. But we don’t know yet if warm weather can curb the spread of the coronavirus.

planes parked at gatwick airport

British Airways planes parked up in a row at Gatwick airport.

Mike Hewitt/Getty Images

31 March

Planes grounded as flight demand continues to fall

British Airways will suspend all flights to and from London’s Gatwick airport. The airline will continue operating limited flights from London Heathrow on a significantly reduced timetable. This comes after EasyJet’s entire fleet of aircraft was grounded.

American Airlines announced it will seek $12 billion in financial aid from the US government because of the impact of the pandemic.

With flights grounded and energy consumption slashed, global carbon dioxide emissions are likely to drop by at least 0.3 per cent in 2020, and perhaps as much as 2.2 per cent. But no credible environmentalists say the response forced by the pandemic is a solution for climate change, Adam Vaughan reports.

Other coronavirus developments

China will release daily numbers of asymptomatic covid-19 cases starting tomorrow, according to the head of the national disease control bureau. There is evidence that the virus is mostly being spread by people with mild or no symptoms.

The US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention are reviewing advice to the public about covering their mouths and noses with cloth face masks. Current guidance is that healthy people don’t need masks or face coverings. Any new advice would make it clear that the general public should not wear medical masks, including surgical and N95 masks, as they are in short supply and needed by healthcare workers.

A century-old vaccine against tuberculosis is being tested to see if it protects people against the coronavirus. Healthcare workers in Melbourne, Australia, will receive the vaccine as part of a trial. The BCG vaccine is known for its ability to boost immune responses to other infections and has also been used to treat early-stage bladder cancer.

Popular video chat and game app Houseparty has claimed it is a victim of corporate sabotage after rumours circulated that downloading the app leaves users vulnerable to hacking.

For the first time since the second world war, the Wimbledon tennis tournament will be cancelled.

Latest coronavirus numbers

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The worldwide death toll has passed 40,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 820,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Antibodies and antibody testing: Antibodies are Y-shaped proteins produced as part of the body’s immune response to infection. Antibody tests take advantage of the microbe-specific antibodies that remain in the blood after a person has recovered from an infection.

Pandemics and our fascination with dying: Pandemics of the past can teach us about the current one, says John Troyer, who studies how we use technology to alter the experience of death.

Park avenue in New York during the pandemic

Park Avenue in New York has been closed to vehicle traffic to allow more space for pedestrians )

Noam Galai/Getty Images

30 March

Government interventions ‘averted 59,000 deaths’ in 11 countries

Government interventions across 11 European countries have already saved 59,000 lives, according to a new report from scientists at Imperial College London which includes Neil Ferguson, whose modelling has informed the UK’s coronavirus strategy. The researchers modelled the impact of social distancing, school closures, lockdowns and the banning of large gatherings in Austria, Belgium, Denmark, France, Germany, Italy, Norway, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.

New breathing aid developed for covid-19 patients

A new breathing aid to help keep covid-19 patients out of intensive care will soon undergo clinical trials in several London hospitals. The device can deliver oxygen to the lungs without the need for a ventilator. It was designed and built in under a week as part of a collaboration between engineers and doctors at University College London and Mercedes Formula One.

The new device has already been approved by the UK’s Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency and, if trials are successful, up to 1000 could be produced per day.

Restrictions extended

US president Donald Trump has said restrictions in the country will be extended until at least 30 April. This follows a warning from the US government’s leading infectious disease expert, Anthony Fauci, over the weekend that the coronavirus could kill as many as 200,000 people in the US

It could be six months before life in the UK returns to “normal”, according to the UK’s deputy chief medical officer. UK prime minister Boris Johnson said that 20,000 former UK National Health Service (NHS) staff have returned to work to help in the fight against the virus.

Virgin Atlantic and EasyJet flight attendants are being offered work at the new NHS Nightingale Hospital in east London. EasyJet’s entire fleet of aircrafts has been grounded due to the pandemic.

Other coronavirus developments

Hungary’s parliament has granted the country’s prime minister Viktor Orban new powers that some argue amount to a suspension of the country’s democracy. Elections will be stopped, parliament will not sit and the government will be able to imprison people for charges such as “spreading fake news.”

As a result of India’s lockdown, thousands of migrant workers have been facing day-long walks to get back home from cities like Delhi and Mumbai, and at least 22 people are reported to have died. At the weekend, Prime Minister Narendra Modi asked the nation’s forgiveness for imposing the sweeping lockdown.

New dates for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic games have been set for 23 July to 8 August 2021, while the Paralympics will happen from 24 August to 5 September 2021.

Latest coronavirus cases and deaths

The worldwide death toll has passed 35,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 740,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

What you can do to help: The new coronavirus is upending our lives, but simple actions can slow its spread, help our neighbours, foster a sense of togetherness and rejuvenate our immune systems.

A message from Greta Thunberg: We must fight the climate crisis and pandemic simultaneously, Thunberg told New Scientist.

 

Previous updates

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New York has been badly affected by the coronavirus pandemic

Marcus Santos/ZUMA Wire/Shutterstock

27 March

US overtakes China with highest number of cases

The US now has the highest number of confirmed coronavirus cases of any country with 86,000 positive tests, overtaking China. Worldwide confirmed cases passed half a million yesterday.

China will ban entry of non-nationals including those with valid Chinese visas and residence permits from tomorrow in an effort to limit the import of new coronavirus cases.

In Italy, there are fears that the south could become the country’s next hotspot. The most recent numbers from the northern region of Lombardy indicate that the epidemic there may be slowing down.

Other coronavirus developments

The G20 has pledged to inject over $5 trillion into the global economy

The UK department of health is reported to have previously rejected high-level medical advice about providing healthcare workers with certain protective equipment during a flu pandemic, because of the cost of stockpiling it.

The UK’s privacy watchdog approved the use of data from people’s mobile phones to track and monitor behaviour to fight the spread of coronavirus.

The world’s top condom producer has expressed concerns about a potential global shortage after a lockdown in Malaysia, where the company’s factories are based. Malaysia is South East Asia’s worst affected country.

UK prime minister Boris Johnson has tested positive for the coronavirus and is now self-isolating. He says he will continue to lead the government’s response remotely. The health secretary, Matt Hancock, has also tested positive for the virus, while Chris Witty, the chief medical adviser, also says he has experienced symptoms and is now self-isolating at home.

Coronavirus cases

The worldwide death toll has passed 25,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 560,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Antibody test: The UK has ordered 3.5 million antibody tests designed to reveal whether people have been infected with the new coronavirus, but will a home antibody test for covid-19 really be a game changer?

Does a high dose of virus make covid-19 worse?: Emerging research indicates that the relationship between infection and covid-19 severity may be complex and perhaps different from that of other respiratory illnesses.

UK epidemic expected to peak in a month: UK science advisers expect that the coronavirus epidemic will reach its peak in a month’s time, according to their most recent analysis.

Coronavirus and weather forecasting: The coronavirus pandemic could make weather forecasts less accurate, due to the reduction in flights by commercial airliners, which carry meteorological instruments.

Previous updates

men in front of stock ticker

The impact of the pandemic on the global economy is unprecedented in modern times

FRANCK ROBICHON/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

26 March

Covid-19 impact will be “worse than the global financial crisis”

The impact of the covid-19 pandemic on the global economy will be worse than the 2008 recession, according to the World Trade Organization’s director general, Roberto Azevêdo.

The managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Kristalina Georgieva, has asked G20 leaders to support an increase of its emergency financing capacity to boost its response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Singapore’s economy has experienced its largest contraction in a decade in the first quarter of this year, according to data released on 26 March. The country is planning for a deep recession.

Numbers released from the US Labor Department today revealed that a record 3.3 million US citizens filed for unemployment last week. The US Senate recently passed a stimulus bill of approximately $2 trillion.

In India, the government announced a $22 billion bailout for people in urgent need of financial support. This comes amid concerns about the prospects for the millions of daily-wage earners in the country, after it went into lockdown earlier this week.

The UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, says self-employed people will have up to 80 per cent of their wages covered by the government during the pandemic.

Other coronavirus developments

A study of 33 newborns born to mothers with covid-19 in Wuhan, China, found that 9 per cent of the infants had covid-19 symptoms but no deaths were reported. It remains unclear whether the virus can transmit from a mother to a fetus during pregnancy.

China’s Civil Aviation Administration has announced they will significantly reduce the number of flights in and out of the country to prevent a second coronavirus outbreak.

The UN’s food body has warned that protectionist measures brought in by national governments during the pandemic could lead to food shortages around the world.

This year’s Tour de France may go ahead without spectators, according to France’s sports minister. The race is due to start on 27 June.

Coronavirus cases

The worldwide death toll has passed 23,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 510,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

How long does the coronavirus stay on surfaces?: Research conducted on the new coronavirus and others similar to it, such as SARS, suggest the virus can spread through particles in the air and via contaminated surfaces. How does this happen?

Life-or-death choices: If there’s a shortage of ventilators, how will doctors decide which covid-19 patients get one? This is the grim question doctors around the world are currently grappling with.

man with lancelet test

A test could be available within days in the UK to see if people had covid-19

IPG Gutenberg UK/Getty Images

25 March

Coronavirus antibody test could be available within days

The UK government has ordered more than 3 million finger prick antibody tests that could be ready in a matter of days. The tests could reveal whether someone had covid-19, but they are being checked first to show that they work properly. It is also still not known whether it’s possible to develop long-lasting immunity to the coronavirus.

Travel restrictions lifted in Hubei province

China’s Hubei province lifted all travel restrictions today, with the exception of Wuhan, where restrictions won’t be eased until 8 April.

In Malaysia, which is currently the worst-hit country in South East Asia, the lockdown has been extended for two more weeks.

Other coronavirus developments

Facebook usage has surged in countries under lockdowns. It’s estimated that a quarter of the world’s population is currently under lockdown and, although Facebook usage is up, the tech giant’s advertising revenue is falling.

The White House and the Senate have agreed a stimulus package worth more than $1.8 trillion to help ease the economic impact of coronavirus in the US.

Some prisoners could be temporarily released in several countries, including England and Wales, to ease pressure on jails caused by more staff taking sick leave and self-isolating, the BBC reports.

Epidemiologist Neil Ferguson gave evidence to the UK’s parliamentary select committee on science and technology today as part of an inquiry into the nation’s response to the pandemic. He said that he is “reasonably confident” that the health service will be able to cope during the predicted peak of the epidemic in two or three weeks, because of expected increases in National Health Service capacity and on-going travel restrictions.

This comes as the UK government has confirmed that it is not participating in European Union efforts to secure more personal protective equipment and ventilators for the NHS.

Prince Charles has tested positive for covid-19. He has mild symptoms but is otherwise in good health, according to a spokesperson.

Coronavirus cases

The worldwide death toll has passed 19,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 440,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

A factory worker in Wuhan eating lunch

Employees eat their lunch while staying 2 meters away from each other at a factory in Wuhan

Stringer/Getty Images

24 March

Plans to lift lockdown in Wuhan

Residents of Wuhan in Hubei province will be allowed to leave the city from 8 April if they are given the all-clear from a health app issued by Chinese authorities. The city has been under complete lockdown since 23 January. People in other areas of Hubei will be able to travel from tomorrow.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has warned that the US may become the next centre of the coronavirus pandemic. Meanwhile, US president Donald Trump has controversially suggested that the US could soon re-open for business.

Olympics postponed to 2021

The Tokyo 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be postponed to summer 2021. Many other major sporting events, including Six Nations Rugby, the UEFA European Football Championship and the London Marathon have also been postponed.

Other coronavirus developments

India has announced a total lockdown of its 1.3 billion citizens for 21 days. This comes after the WHO warned yesterday that the pandemic is accelerating.

Ivory Coast and Senegal have both declared states of emergency. Ivory Coast has begun to introduce confinement measures, while Senegal will introduce a curfew from dusk to dawn.

A modelling study of a simulated Singapore published in The Lancet has estimated that a combination of physical distancing interventions, including quarantine for infected individuals and their families, school closures, and workplace distancing is most effective at reducing the number of coronavirus cases.

Researchers are inventing new types of masks and ventilators to help tackle the pandemic. A new ventilator has already been used to treat a person in the UK.

In the UK, the government said a decision to temporarily allow early medical abortions to be carried out at home was published in error.

Coronavirus cases

The worldwide death toll has passed 17,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 390,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Spread without symptoms: You could be spreading the coronavirus without realising you’ve got it. Studies suggest peak infectiousness may occur before people even realise they are sick.

Why the US is so vulnerable: The economic and healthcare policies pursued by the US in recent years have failed to prioritise public health and made it vulnerable to a pandemic.

Greta Thunberg may have had covid-19: Climate change campaigner Greta Thunberg says she may have had covid-19 and has self-isolated. “I don’t want to put anyone else at risk,” she told New Scientist.

What is a virus?: For something so small, viruses have a huge impact on the world. They are the most abundant organisms on Earth, and probably played a pivotal role in the origin of life.

New Scientist Default Image

Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director General of the World Health Organization (WHO

SALVATORE DI NOLFI/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

23 March

“The pandemic is accelerating”

The coronavirus pandemic is accelerating, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said today in a press briefing as the number of deaths from covid-19 passed 15,000.

Stricter lockdowns

The UK government is considering firmer policies to force people to distance themselves from others, while the lockdown in Italy has already been ramped up further with all non-essential businesses now closed.

100 million people are now under lockdown in India and more than 1000 people have been arrested in Sri Lanka for breaking a nationwide curfew declared on Friday.

The world’s busiest international airport in Dubai will suspend all passenger flights for two weeks from 25 March. All domestic flights in India will be grounded from 25 March onwards.

Other coronavirus developments

There are early signs that the rise in new infections in Germany may be plateauing, according to the head of the country’s public health institute, Lothar Wieler. South Korea today reported the fewest new covid-19 cases since the peak on 29 February.

The first two cases of coronavirus have been reported in the Palestinian territory of Gaza, where about two million people live in overcrowded cities and refugee camps. Syria is bracing for lockdown after the Health Ministry reported the first case of coronavirus on Sunday.

A prominent member of the International Olympic Committee says the 2020 Olympic and Paralympic Games will be postponed. Australia and Canada have already announced they won’t be sending teams to compete.

Mark Zuckerberg announced that Facebook has donated 720,000 masks to healthcare workers in the US. Over the weekend, the billionaire co-founder of Alibaba, Jack Ma, donated millions of face masks, testing kits and other equipment to countries in Africa.

Coronavirus cases

The worldwide death toll has passed 15,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 360,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Cause for concern in the UK: The UK guidance on coronavirus seems to rely heavily on a single model of the outbreak, which some scientists suggest contains systematic errors. 

David Attenborough on coronavirus: Attenborough shares his thoughts on everything from climate change to coronavirus. “I don’t think that we can draw a big moral lesson about how we are treating nature so badly that she’s kicking back,” he says. “I think it’s just part of life.”

How hand sanitiser works: Alcohol-based hand sanitisers, with at least 60 per cent alcohol, destroy the coronavirus by damaging its fatty outer layer.

UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak

The UK Chancellor said wages would be covered for employees at companies affected by the virus

BBC

20 March

UK government to cover affected workers’ wages

The UK government has announced that it will pay 80 per cent of wages up to £2,500 a month for employees who are not working during the coronavirus outbreak. The scheme will last at least three months, backdated to 1 March, and it could be extended for longer if necessary. UK pubs and restaurants will also close, mirroring moves in other countries around the world.

Coronavirus vaccine trials get underway 

Researchers at the University of Oxford in the UK are planning a safety trial for a vaccine against coronavirus in humans. Normally vaccines are tested in animals first, but the trial has been accelerated due to the speed of the coronavirus outbreak.

The first human trial of a vaccine to protect against the covid-19 coronavirus began in the US earlier this week. Other vaccines are in development in Germany and China. Development of an antibody test will also be important to confirm whether people have acquired immunity to the coronavirus.

Other coronavirus developments

China reported no new local coronavirus cases on Wednesday and Thursday. All new cases reported on those two days were from returning travellers who are thought to have contracted the virus while outside China. Nasa’s pollution monitoring satellites have detected a drop in nitrogen dioxide over China which is thought to be partly due to the economic slowdown caused by the coronavirus outbreak.

Schools are to reopen in Singapore but with strict social isolation rules for teachers and children who have recently been abroad. Singapore was one of the first countries to be hit by the virus, in late January.

More lockdowns, border closures and travel restrictions came into effect around the world today. Argentina has imposed a nationwide lockdown and The Philippines has closed borders to non-nationals. Curfew has been imposed in Sri Lanka and a stay-at-home order has been announced in the US state of California.

Police on the Isle of Man arrested a man for allegedly failing to self-isolate, and he could face a fine of up to £10,000 or a three month prison sentence. In the UK, more than 65,000 retired medics are being asked to return to work to help fight the virus.

Documents from the UK’s Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (SAGE) suggest that policies to limit the spread of coronavirus would need to be in place for “at least most of a year” in order to prevent healthcare services from becoming overwhelmed.

Coronavirus cases

The worldwide death toll has passed 10,000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 240,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Fighting the pandemic: To fight the coronavirus pandemic effectively we need lots more data. Evidence from China so far suggests the way to get on top of the covid-19 outbreak is through rapid testing, isolation and quarantine rather than lockdowns and big travel restrictions. 

medics in Jiangsu province

Medics in Jiangsu province mark their departure after helping with the COVID-19 coronavirus recovery effort, in Wuhan.

STR/AFP via Getty Images

19 March

China reports no new local cases 

For the first time since the outbreak began in late December, China reported that yesterday there were no new local cases of the coronavirus. The lockdown could be lifted in Wuhan, China, once there are no new cases for 14 days, according to the China Daily newspaper. In Italy, the number of people who have died has overtaken China.

The probability of dying after developing symptoms of covid-19 in Wuhan, where the new coronavirus was first detected, was 1.4 per cent as of 29 February, according to a new study. This is lower than was previously thought.

Other coronavirus developments

The European Central Bank has launched an emergency €750 billion package to ease the economic impact of the pandemic, and the Bank of England cut the base interest rate from 0.25% to 0.1%, a record low.

More travel restrictions have been put into place around the world to limit the spread of the coronavirus. Australia and New Zealand have completely closed their borders to foreigners and, in the UK, up to 40 London Underground stations are to be shut. 

On-going lockdowns in France and Italy may be extended into April. India’s population of 1.3 billion have been asked to observe a curfew on Sunday to test the country’s ability to respond to the coronavirus crisis.

At a press briefing, Chris Whitty, chief medical officer for England, said it is now highly improbable that the virus can be made to “go away”. Patrick Vallance, the UK’s chief scientific adviser, said it was not possible to put a timeline on when the country will be able to relax its measures for controlling the virus.

In the world of sports, there is still no sign of the Tokyo Olympics being postponed or cancelled, but all English football will be suspended until at least 30 April. 

Coronavirus cases

The worldwide death toll has passed 9000. The number of confirmed cases is more than 220,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Understanding the virus: Scientists are working around the clock to understand the biology of the covid-19 virus and how it infects human cells, which will help us design treatments to stop it.

Comment: UK politicians are invoking science to defend their policies but even the ‘best science’ doesn’t have the final word on covid-19.

Coronavirus origin: No, the covid-19 virus is not a bioweapon and it was not made in a lab.

Who is the WHO: Find out more about the organisation guiding global responses to the pandemic.

spanish policeman at the border with France

Spanish policemen control the border crossing between Spain and France

GUILLAUME HORCAJUELO/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

18 March

Travel bans come into effect around the world

Germany joined France, Spain and Italy in closing schools, closing non-essential shops and urging its citizens to stay at home as much as possible. As the EU’s new 30-day travel ban came into effect today, thousands of passengers were stopped at Germany’s largest airport, Frankfurt Am Main. Traffic was backed up for more than 60 kilometres on the motorway at the German-Polish border as Poland introduced border controls. The FT reports that London could be “locked down” imminently with similarly strict rules on being outdoors to that seen in Spain and Italy.

Several countries in Africa have also announced travel bans, including Nigeria, and, in South America, Brazil has closed its border to Venezuela. The US-Canada border will also close temporarily.

Governments around the world, including in Australia, Indonesia, New Zealand, Norway and the United Arab Emirates, are now urging their citizens to return home as the coronavirus spreads. 

Other coronavirus developments

The UK has announced that it is closing schools from Friday, except for the children of key workers in the NHS, police and supermarkets. Schools will be asked to make provisions for the children of these key workers and to look after the most vulnerable children. Exams have also been cancelled for the year.

The Trump administration has outlined a $1 trillion package to support the US economy. This follows the UK government announcement of a £330 billion stimulus package yesterday. Despite this, share prices in Europe, the US and Asia continue to fall.

Several foreign countries have cancelled or postponed their national team training camps for the Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games which are still scheduled to take place in July. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) told the BBC they are committed to finding a solution with the least negative impact for the athletes, while protecting the integrity of the competition and the athletes’ health.

A drug used in Japan to treat new strains of influenza appears to be effective at treating the coronavirus, but it doesn’t appear to be effective in more severe cases, medical authorities in China have said.

Following confusion over the use of ibuprofen by people with suspected or confirmed covid-19, the UK’s National Health Service has now advised people to take paracetamol to treat coronavirus symptoms, unless their doctor has told them otherwise. In a statement, they said “there is currently no strong evidence that ibuprofen can make coronavirus (covid-19) worse.” 

Neil Ferguson, the Imperial College London scientist who led research that is reported to have influenced changes to the UK’s coronavirus policy, has developed covid-19 symptoms and is self isolating.

Coronavirus cases

The worldwide death toll has passed 8000. The number of confirmed cases is now over 200,000, according to the map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University, though the true number of cases will be much higher.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Coronavirus vaccine: Researchers are racing to develop a vaccine against covid-19 within 12 to 18 months. This will mean relying on untested techniques – and that comes with its own risks.

Travel restrictions: Australia has announced major restrictions on overseas travel, large gatherings, and visits to aged care homes in an effort to limit the spread of covid-19. The country is still in the early stages of the coronavirus pandemic. 

Regent Street in London without people

A quiet Regent Street in London.

Rick Findler/PA Wire/PA Images

17 March

WHO on how countries can beat coronavirus

The World Health Organization (WHO) said today a combination of actions by governments including more testing and contact tracing could save lives. “The experience of China and others shows testing and contact tracing, combined with social distancing measures and community mobilisation, when put in place quickly and effectively, can prevent infections and can save lives,” said Hans Kluge at the WHO, during an update on the situation in Europe.

He said the virus could be beaten back by solidarity within communities and between countries. “These are unprecedented times. It is important that countries work together, learn from each other and harmonise the efforts.” Asked by New Scientist about the new measures announced by the UK yesterday, he said he applauded them. “We are pleased to see the UK is getting into the mainstream and stepping up its efforts.”

UK health service under pressure

The UK’s chief scientific advisor Patrick Vallance said today there were probably around 55,000 cases in the country, as official cases jumped to 1950, up 407 on yesterday. By comparison to the roughly 8000 annual deaths from the flu he said it would be a “good outcome” if the UK’s new measures kept coronavirus deaths to below 20,000.

“But I mean it is still horrible; that’s still an enormous number of deaths and an enormous pressure on the health service,” Vallance told MPs on the health and social care committee. Asked why schools had not closed yet as they have in other countries, he said it did not have as much impact as other measures at slowing the virus’s spread, and it had “complicating effects”, including children mixing with grandparents, and the impact on the National Health Service workforce. But he said: “It’s absolutely still on the table.”

The chief executive of the NHS, Simon Stevens, said in response to the crisis the health service was freeing up 30,000 of 100,000 acute care beds for coronavirus patients. He also announced the NHS was stopping all non-urgent surgery from 15 April for three months. Stevens added the UK had access to more than 8000 ventilators for intensive care now, and would soon have around 12,000. But he would not be drawn on whether that would be enough to cope with the peak of the epidemic.

Other coronavirus developments

A strict travel lockdown came into force in France at midday, requiring anyone leaving their home to sign a document declaring that they are doing so for a permitted purpose, including exercise or buying food. 

Human volunteers have been injected with an experimental covid-19 vaccine for the first time as a clinical trial in Seattle gets under way, and the first commercial tests for the virus have been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration, which should greatly increase testing capacity. 

Amazon says it will hire an extra 100,000 workers to respond to a surge in demand for online services. 

France’s health ministry has suggested that popular anti-inflammatory painkillers such as ibuprofen could worsen the effects of the coronavirus. Experts say more evidence is needed. 

The UK’s Chancellor of the Exchequer, Rishi Sunak, has promised £330 billion worth of government-backed loans and guarantees and additional measures to support businesses and households including small cash grants and mortgage holidays. The Prime Minister Boris Johnson says the UK government must act like a war-time government.

Coronavirus cases

The worldwide death toll has passed 7500. Keep up with the best data on the global cases with this map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Analysis suggests UK still not doing enough: The UK is introducing stronger measures to tackle the spread of the coronavirus, but some of the science that helped inform this approach suggests it still won’t be enough to avoid a large number of deaths.

Social distancing: Governments around the world are responding to the covid-19 pandemic and social distancing is a central aspect of plans to limit the spread of the coronavirus. But what is social distancing and how do you do it? 

German police at French border

German Federal police officers stand at the closed border to France due the Coronovirus Epidemic in Kehl, German

RONALD WITTEK/EPA-EFE/Shutterstock

16 March

The UK government has announced that everyone in the country should avoid “non-essential” travel and should voluntarily avoid pubs, clubs and theatres.

Governments around the world continued to limit travel and close borders. In Europe, Germany partially closed its borders with five countries. The European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen has proposed that there should be a ban on all non-essential travel from outside the European Union for 30 days with exemptions for long-term residents, family members of EU nationals and diplomats.

South Africa and Kenya have imposed strict bans on travel from the worst affected countries.

In the US, flight bans that were extended to the UK and Ireland came into effect. New York, New Jersey and Connecticut forced the closure of restaurants, bars and cinemas. Australia’s prime minister said all travellers arriving in the country would have to self-isolate for 14 days, or risk prison and fines.

In Italy, Lombardy’s governor says the growth of new cases has slowed slightly, but cases in Italy and Spain are still increasing much more rapidly than they did in China, as this (log scale) chart from the Financial Times shows.

Coronavirus cases

The worldwide death toll has passed 6500. Keep up with the best data on the global cases with this map and dashboard from Johns Hopkins University.

Latest on coronavirus from New Scientist

Testing is key: The WHO’s assistant director general Bruce Aylward tells New Scientist that effective quarantine is essential for tackling the coronavirus, but this cannot happen without extensive testing for covid-19. Read our full interview with Bruce Aylward.

Pregnancy and babies: According to initial reports based on small numbers of people, pregnant women and their babies do not seem to be more vulnerable to covid-19 than other groups of people, but doctors warn that it is too early to know for sure. Early reports suggest the virus doesn’t pass from mother to baby via breast milk, but health bodies are advising new mothers who are infected with the virus to take precautions while breastfeeding, such as washing their hands and wearing a facemask.

Psychological responses: When facing uncertainty, we are motivated to take actions that increase our sense of control over the situation, explains psychologist Rachel McCloy. Unfortunately, this can lead to behaviours such as panic buying, which do not actually help to control the virus and may make the situation worse.

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